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Golden Knights ‘fun committee’ helps team survive bubble life

Updated August 14, 2020 - 1:29 pm

Surviving bubble life sometimes requires a little bit of fun and games.

The Golden Knights are two-plus weeks into their stay at the NHL’s secure zone in Edmonton, Alberta, and they’re doing everything they can to stay sane between each practice and game. So far, that’s meant a steady diet of cornhole, basketball, poker and movies.

The team’s “fun committee” — consisting of veterans Nate Schmidt, Nick Holden, Ryan Reaves and Jonathan Marchessault — has taken the lead on planning group activities to break up any monotony that sets in.

Its work hasn’t slowed down even though the first round of the playoffs have begun. In fact, the Knights hope they’re just getting started.

“They’re creating different things that allow us to take attention away from being in the bubble and bond as a group and do different things,” rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud said. “It shifts our mindset away from hockey and everything (to) coming together as a team and relaxing and having some fun.”

Whitecloud said that unlike a normal Knights’ road trip, the team knows it will be staying in the same place for an extended period of time. That gives the “fun committee” time to plan activities well in advance.

The Knights hope they’ll continue to do so for some time. If the team achieves its goal of reaching and winning the Stanley Cup Final, they could be in the bubble for more than two months.

So far, some of the committee’s events have included a barbecue before the round robin started, a team poker tournament and a movie night Wednesday.

Forward Nick Cousins tweeted a photo of the Knights’ setup before they watched the 2008 Will Ferrell basketball comedy “Semi-Pro.” The team’s lounge at the JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District hotel has a poker table, a ping pong table, two TVs and a projector screen for all the players to enjoy.

The poker table was put to good use when defenseman Deryk Engelland beat all of his teammates in the tournament. Noted card players Marchessault and Reaves weren’t able to see through the stoic veteran’s poker face.

Rookie center Nicolas Roy has jumped into games, but he admitted he has a lot of catching up to do to fit in.

“I’m pretty new at the table,” Roy said. “I need some experience there. The guys are helping me out a little bit.”

The group activities, while taken a little bit out of the youth hockey tournament playbook, serve a purpose, too. The Knights need to do everything they can to keep things loose and fresh during what could be a long stay in Edmonton.

If it takes a “fun committee” to hoist this year’s Stanley Cup, so be it.

“I think that’s going to be a huge piece of this is mentally how you stay sharp and fresh,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think our group knows they want to be here for the long haul and that’s going to be a piece of it.”

Knights embracing back-to-backs

The Knights are also happy to let the NHL fill up their calendar for them.

The team plays the Blackhawks back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday. DeBoer said the Knights are fine with that, even though it normally doesn’t happen in the playoffs.

“If you ask the guys that are around here, they want to play,” DeBoer said. “They don’t want to sit around the bubble. They want to play and get at it.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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